- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nicky Anosike sneaked into a Washington Wizards practice one morning.

“I don’t think I was supposed to be in there,” she said with a smile.

Her former coach from the Minnesota Lynx, Don Zierden, now an assistant coach for the Wizards, was running players through drills and she wanted to watch. The two plan to stay in touch now that Anosike will be patrolling the paint for the Mystics.

The 6-foot-3 center was traded to Washington in April, and along with forward Crystal Langhorne anchors a team with a defense-first philosophy.

“I was so excited to come to the Mystics. This is the closest I’ve played to home in about eight years,” Anosike said. “Growing up with a lot of the players here and playing against them, and now playing on the same team is cool.”

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in Staten Island, Anosike is looking forward to playing in front of her family and friends, and for new coach Trudi Lacey.

“She does not back down. She does not accept any weakness,” Anosike said of Lacey. “She doesn’t let us feel sorry for ourselves that our two top scorers [Alana Beard and Monique Currie] are out. She just tells us to keep pressing on because no one else is going to take it easy on us. She’s really tough, and she tries to instill that in us.”

A second-round draft pick from Tennessee in 2008, Anosike ranked in the top five in the WNBA last season in defensive rebounds, blocks and free throw percentage, and averages 10.5 points and 7 rebounds per game in her three-year career. Anosike spent two seasons with the Lynx before being traded to the Mystics for a first-round pick in the 2012 draft.

Both her former coach and current coach say they are blessed to have her.

“She brings a lot to our team - post presence, leadership, defense; she helps our young kids out a lot,” Lacey said. “She and [Langhorne] complement each other very well. She’s given us that post presence we needed. She has all the pieces. She’s a complete player. She’s a great passer, great rebounder, loves defense, can score in the paint. She and Lang are our anchors right now.”

Zierden called her “one of those players that coaches fall in love with.”

“We thought we were just so blessed to get her [in Minnesota]. The number one thing that jumped out at us was her competitive nature and her tenacity,” Zierden said. “I think that Mystics fans will just love her. All fans want to see in the WNBA is players playing hard and giving their all, and they will see that from Nicky day in and day out.”